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By Thomas Wheeler

Although the "Sigma Six" aspect of the 8" G.I. Joe line has been dropped, this interesting line of "mid-sized" and rather stylized G.I. Joe figures continues, with new themes branching out of the line. One of these is called COMBAT SQUAD, a group of figures intended, as far as the design elements of the line will permit, to be somewhat more authentically military than the typical 8" G.I. Joe -- Sigma or otherwise.

Now, obviously, no one is going to mistake these figures for the highly authentic 12" G.I. Joe figures, or any other 12" military action figure line that is a stickler for military authenticity. There's just no way to fit that into the 8" line entirely. The stylized physiques of the figures just don't allow for that.

So consider the new 8" Combat Squad group to be a compromise of sorts. The characters have code-names, they maintain the same stylized look of the Sigma Six G.I. Joes, and yet they do manage to be more military in appearance than the Sigmas, or some of the other 8" Joes that are turning up that are part of the overall line, but are not specifically Sigma-Suited.

One of the characters in this Combat Squad series is named SHOCKWAVE, and there's a name with a fair amount of history in the G.I. Joe universe. Granted, when toy collectors hear the name Shockwave, they're most likely to think of a large, purple, one-eyed Decepticon from Transformers that turned into a large ray gun, but the name also turned up in the world of G.I. Joe, as well.

Shockwave was first introduced into the G.I. Joe 3-3/4" line in 1988, as the team's new S.W.A.T. specialist. He was a former cop with tons of training and experience, which he gladly brought to the G.I. Joe Team. The following year, the same figure would be recolored and added to Toys "R" Us' exclusive line of NIGHT FORCE figures. Then, in 1992, a new Shockwave figure was created, and the character signed up, not surprisingly, with the Drug Elimination Force team. This was a group of mostly urban fighters with the goal of bringing down the Headman and his gang of drug-pushing HeadHunters. Shockwave was a logical fit for this special team.

That Night Force version of Shockwave is significant to this review, however. The original Shockwave, in 1988, was dressed in a dark blue ski- mask, dark blue protective vest, and was wearing a light blue uniform, with a cap over the ski mask, and the uniform and cap had dark blue and yellow lined camouflage on it, a sort of "urban camo".

When the figure was recolored the following year for Night Force, the dark blue ski mask and protective vest were turned black, and the rest of the uniform was turned dark grey, and the camouflage was dropped.

And although the new 8" Shockwave has restored some camouflage to the uniform, if one allows for the style variances, the new Shockwave is a dead ringer for his 3-3/4" Night Force counterpart. This is by no means a complaint -- it's a cool figure.

However, Shockwave is no longer a S.W.A.T. specialist. He's moved up in the world. His new specialty, according to his package, is Black Ops. Now, granted, I have no direct military experience myself. But I think we've all seen enough action movies and hopefully read enough books to know that Black Ops is about as nasty as it gets. The bottom line here is that you're called on to do a job that nobody really wants to admit needs doing, that no one else wants to get their hands dirty doing, and you're expected to go in to likely an extremely dangerous place to do this very nasty job, likely with minimal back-up and support, do the job so that once it's done, no one can possibly trace it back to you or the people that sent you, and then get out so that no one knows you were there in the first place. And if you screw up, you're on your own.

Fortunately for Shockwave, and interestingly since he is such a match for his Night Force counterpart which was still listed as a SWAT specialist at the time -- he certainly looks the part of a Black Ops -- operative. All dark colors on this guy. Black fabric ski-mask, dark grey cap, dark grey uniform with darker grey camouflage, black protective fabric tunic, black boots, black gloves. You could put this guy on a black-and-white TV and the only real visual difference would be his fingers and the bit of his face that shows through the ski mask.

I'm honestly not sure who else's body parts were used for the chest and arms. They might be new, but I'm not certain. Shockwave has an overall physical build that I would describe, comparable to other 8" G.I. Joes, as "average to stocky". He's a proper 8" in height, and just bulky enough so he looks like someone you really wouldn't want to get into a fistfight with. Shockwave shares the same leg molds as Inferno, although there's such a color difference -- Inferno being the new firefighting specialist and dressed in significant amounts of bright red, especially his legs -- that you'd never really know it. His head, underneath the ski mask, is actually the same as Wet-Suit, given dark blonde hair, but really, he looks more appropriate with the ski mask in place, so this isn't exactly a big deal. It's cool that the ski mask can be removed, but if you're worried about two G.I. Joes having the same face, just leave it on.

The fabric tunic, which I presume is upposed to represent some sort of protective gear, is made from a fairly coarse fabric. It reminds me of something, but I just can't think what right now. It's not hemmed, and while I don't think it would be too suceptible to fraying, I would recommend handling it carefully.

The only real evidence of color anywhere on Shockwave's uniform is on the left shoulder, a small insignia representative of the 8" G.I. Joe Team -- and technically replacing the "6" logo -- which is three stripes ending in three stars, like the G.I. Joe logo after the word "G.I. Joe" in the logo.

If you're going to send someone on a Black Ops mission, you want to be sure they're well equipped. And Shockwave certainly is. He comes with three different firearms -- a pistol, a medium sized firearm that looks like a semi-automatic something or other -- looks rather nasty, and if it has a real-world counterpart I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of it -- and a larger and very fancy-looking rifle-like device that is described in the back as a "Missile Blasting Launcher", which does fire a mean-looking missile that is part of Shockwave's package.

Shockwave also comes with a couple of cylindrical grenades, and a pair of night-vision goggles -- nice touch, that particular accessory.

There is a new feature with the latest 8" G.I. Joe figures -- it's the return of (or at least a new incarnation of) something that was quite legendary towards the end of the original 12" line of G.I. Joe figures -- KUNG-FU GRIP!

However, where the 12" G.I. Joes accomplished this by clenched hands with rubbery fingers that allowed them to grasp objects that could fit within their hands, the 8" G.I. Joes accomplish this with spring-loaded fingers on the right hand. The spring inside the hand seems to have a good amount of tension to it, even though the grasping radius of the hand is relatively small, due to the size of the figure, of course. However, it should still be useful in helping the figure hold onto his accessories.

Let me say this about the package design for the Combat Squad series, as well. Hasbro, I believe, wanted to present, much as they have with the figures, a rough-and-tough military-type image, with a certain stylizing to it. In this they have succeeded. The entire package is fairly subdued, military colors, including the plastic top and bottom, done in a dark olive green (these segments, as with the Sigma Six line, can be transformed into a storage locker for the weapons, so don't throw them away -- and hinges are included in the package), the backdrop inside the box is muted colors, looking like a rocky landscape, the logo has been somewhat weathered, and the back of the box presents Shockwave against a similar rocky background, with some seriously creepy lighting that seems to combine green and brown. It almost makes Shockwave's uniform look green. In so doing, Hasbro has brought out as much of a "realistic-military" edge to this line as the design of the figures will allow.

Shockwave doesn't have much of a file card, but there is some information on the package back. It reads as follows:


Code Name: Shockwave

Expertise: Urban Combat/Night Operations

Special Training: Enemy Location

Weapons Proficiency: Missiles, Rockets, Cannons

Tactics: Strategic Weapons Combinations

Background: Ammunition and Field Artillery

Well, it's interesting to note that "Urban Combat" is mentioned as part of his expertise. This is a nice little nod to his S.W.A.T. days. Also please note the complete lack of mention of Cobra. They're not a part of this Combat Squad series.

SHOCKWAVE is an impressive figure, nicely done, with some cool accessories and an extremely interesting specialty. He's a worthwhile addition to any G.I. Joe 8" collection, and he definitely has my recommendation!